28 May 2009

Movie Review: Drag Me to Hell


B+

Drag Me to Hell
2009, 99mins, PG-13
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer (s): Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Cast includes: Alison Lohman, Justin Young, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer
Release Date: 29th May 2009

“Drag Me to Hell” is a pretty straight forward cinematic property, its aims are to amuse, scare and generally just provide the audience with a darned fun time. On all counts it fires in as a success, a lean and ruthlessly efficient movie “Drag Me to Hell” does what is required to make it an enjoyable summer romp before accumulating in a wonderfully twisty and tricksy build up to a ballsy climax. As a return to the genre that made its directors name, “Drag Me to Hell” isn’t a CV pinnacle but marks a confident and accomplished effort, riddled with oodles of energy and black wit, it’s a horror trip worth buying into.

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a working gal with a desire for promotion, and thus an opportunity to disprove her quaint farming roots and show herself as worthy of professor boyfriend Clay (Justin Long). Such a chance presents itself in the form of the vacant Assistant’s Manager Job at the bank, but whilst Christine is a prime candidate there is stiff competition. The head of the establishment suggests that if Christine was a little more willing to make “tough calls” then she would be ideal, and later that day a chance to demonstrate said quality arises. Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) a one eyed crone seeking a third loan on her house wanders to Christine’s desk, and in a bid to be seen as firm she denies the elderly woman her want. However Ganush isn’t easily sated and places a curse on Christine, one that after three days of torturous haunting and menacing visions will send her right to the depths of hell.

“Drag Me to Hell” is almost exclusively fixated on the character of Christine and two of the movie’s strongest points are focused around that aspect. Firstly as the leading lady Lohman is a star, making good on the promise that she suggested in other features, now elevated to head status and relishing it with a determined and strong central turn. Secondly the movie is lean and unless a character serves to flesh out the personality of Christine or power the plot, then the Raimi brothers have seen fit to leave it out of their script. The perfect example comes in the form of Justin Long’s boyfriend, it’s actually a pretty decent effort from the usually geeky actor, but he only really features when he is able to add to the three dimensionality of the main character. The chemistry between Lohman and Long is believable and in “Drag me to Hell” that’s really the only relationship that counts.

The movie isn’t a nail biter in the most traditional sense, it isn’t primed with pants wetting terror or “Saw” style gore, Raimi favoring the slow burn before unleashing an unforeseen moment of boo horror. The picture received a PG-13 rating, usually the kiss of death from a creative perspective in the horror genre, but on this occasion Raimi is able to use his considerable genre know how to elicit respectable amounts of tension and seat shaking shocks. It never approaches the levels f cringe worthy terror that “The Evil Dead” conjured in its most intimidating moments, but it’s about the most unsettling PG-13 genre piece to arrive all year. Being a Raimi movie it’s also filled with yukky laughs and black humor, the sense of humor at the heart of “Drag Me to Hell” is certainly twisted but it’s also regularly funny. Raimi has a way of making the most bizarre horror conventions seem amusing, an arterial spray from the nose is worth a good chuckle as is believe it or not the slaughter of an innocent cat. An instance involving a possessed goat is more blatant concerning its comedic intentions, but all in all for those willing to embrace it, the horror goofballing is pretty strong with this one.

The film is short and based on a simple and deliciously effective hook, sure the screenplay requires a little hokum and laughable mythos to be bandied around, but they’re easily embraced on such a salacious and amusing thrill ride of a picture. Audiences are sure to enjoy the fact that this is a plot molded to an appropriate runtime, keeping things constantly at a level of intense enjoyment. For purists it probably lacks the groundbreaking innovation of some of their genre favorites, but overall even they should be able to take this as a pleasurable cinematic experience.

Technically the movie has a rash of crap CGI but the cinematography is cool and underplays the style whilst always effortlessly dialing up the tension and creepy theatrics. The atmosphere is religiously freaky, Raimi deploying his work in low budget and high budget affairs to concoct a slick looking horror whilst avoiding the assembly line work that plagues a lot of modern thriller work. The film also wraps up with a deliciously twisty and unpredictable ending, the movie keeps you guessing right up to the final frame and unleashes a delightfully bawdy climax. This is one of the elements that really helps “Drag Me to Hell” overcome most genre competition, it’s got the backbone to deliver the finish that the population really wants.

An energetic and commendable addition to the collective works of all involved, “Drag Me to Hell” infuses dark comedy and jittery tension to neat effect, and boasts a really good central performance from Lohman. It’s not a perfect attempt in scare theatrics and is plagued by a few minor concerns, but they won’t stop you from having a damn good time with the quick and potent “Drag Me to Hell”.



A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

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